Paper: The civilian as humanitarian: an IHL perspective

Paper details

Paper authors Katharine Fortin
In panel on Everyday humanitarianism
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


This paper explores the fact that multiple forces are pushing civilian communities into the front line of humanitarian assistance. These forces include (i) problems of humanitarian access making a presence impossible (ii) a reconfiguration of humanitarian aid that emphasizes the importance of local communities and (iii) the increased protractedness of non international armed conflicts, which is creating a focus on sustainable solutions. The ability of civilian communities to carry out (self) protection activities – such as negotiation with armed actors, engaging with armed actors on humanitarian norms, taking responsibility for collecting and caring for the dead and sick and wounded - challenge the traditional landscape of civilian protection which usually relies upon outside actors, such as the ICRC. It also potentially poses challenges to civilian protection because the framework of international humanitarian law does not necessarily envisage that civilians will be play taking on these roles. The purpose of this paper is to assess this latter question, assessing the extent to which international humanitarian law provides due space for civilian communities to carry out humanitarian activities without it impacting on their civilian protection.